The 4-day NGO Conference in Tokyo was successfully held by Korean and Japanese NGO associations from June 20 to 23, 2014 under the theme, “Building Peace in East Asia: Reestablishment of Korean-Japanese Relations through Review of the 1965 Korea (ROK)-Japan Basic Treaty.” The NGO Conference was co-hosted by the International NGO History Forum for Peace in East Asia and the Council of Civil Society Organizations for the Realization of Korea-Japan Declaration from Korea and the Executive Committee of the Campaign for the Re-establishment of Japan-Korea Relations, 2015 from Japan. The bi-annual conference of this year was mainly focused on historical reconciliation and peace-building between Korea and Japan. There were around 300 participants from Japan, Korea and other overseas countries: more than 200 members from Japan, 60 delegates from Korea and several speakers from the USA, Australia, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Russia.
The NGO Conference aimed at sharing experiences on grassroots movements by civil societies and promoting historical understandings in order to pursue shared values for a peaceful future, reestablishing historical perceptions through reevaluating and reflecting on the Korea-Japan Basic Treaty of 1965 and the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1952, building peace in East Asia by overcoming colonial legacies and solving historical conflicts between Korea and Japan, and developing agenda and programs for the 6th International NGO Conference on History and Peace to be held in 2015.
On the first day, there was a press conference at the meeting hall of the House of Representatives of Japan, and selective delegates of Korea and Japan stated the attitude of the Abe government in connection with the Kono Statement of 1993 which effectively acknowledged the Japanese military’s involvement in the coercion and mobilization of women into sexual slavery during World War II. The delegates expressed strong concern over the Japanese government-commissioned panel’s review of the 1993 Kono Statement released on the same day.
The conference began with four keynote speeches delivered by representatives from Japan, Korea, Australia, and the USA. Prof. Utsumi Aiko, Visiting Professor in Asia-Pacific Research Center, Osaka University of Economics and Law in Japan, presented on "reviewing and re-evaluating the 50 years since the 1965 Korea- Japan Treaty from Japanese perspective,” Prof. Janghie Lee from Korea talked about "overcoming of the 1965 Korea-Japan Settlement Agreement Regime and Peace in the East Asia from the Perspective of Japan’s Colonial State Responsibility," Prof. Gavan McCormack from Australia N. University, spoke about “Korea-Japan relations in East Asia after World War II: re-evaluation of the normalization of mutual diplomatic relations since the 1965 treaty” and finally Dr. Elazar Barkan, Professor of International and Public Affairs and Director of the Institute for the Study of Human Rights and SIPA Human Rights Concentration at Columbia University, USA, talked about "constructive suggestions and ideas for the resolution of historical conflicts and dialogues between Korea and Japan from international perspectives and experiences".
There was an international symposium in the afternoon under the theme of "reviewing the ROK-Japan Claims Agreement (Treaty) of 1965: Its impact and contributions.” In the session, speakers both from Korea and Japan engaged in an active discussion over unfinished historical matters between Korean and Japan and later with audience.
On the third day, there were five workshops all day long. Workshop 1 and 2 covered various history issues including Japan’s military comfort women, forced laborers, the problem of hate speeches against Korean-Japanese, and the problem of the Yasukuni Shrine. Those two workshops were organized by The Council of Civil Society Organizations for the Realization of Korea-Japan Declaration (Korea) and the Executive Committee of the Campaign for the Re-establishment of Japan-Korea Relations, 2015 (Japan).
NGO History Forum organized workshop 3 under the theme, “history education and textbook issues" and workshop 4 under the theme "strengthening of transnational NGO networks for historical reconciliation and peace-building in East Asia." At the workshop 3, three speakers (one from Korea and two from Japan) presented current status of history textbooks in both countries in connection with historical distortion. The Korean speaker at the session suggested developing the idea of writing a joint history textbook of East Asia in collaboration with scholars from Southeast Asia.
Workshop3 outlined the work of the International NGO History Forum and intended to explore agendas related to history and peace in upcoming conferences. The Forum sought to share views on history with local and international civilsociety organizations that are active in various fields around building peace in East Asia through the understanding and reconciliation of historical experiences. The NGO History Forum hopes to promote the role of NGOs in peace building in East Asia to enhance solidarity and networking among NGOs. This workshop was conducted as a round-table discussion with invited experts from different regions: the USA, Europe, Southeast Asia, Japan, and Korea. Five speakers presented based on his or her experiences and suggested proposals for historical reconciliation and peace-building in East Asia based on his or her experiences. Participants also identified practical ways to consolidate peace initiatives and promote further collaborations through NGO networking and joint follow-ups for the future.
In addition, there was a Youth Forum which was organized and conducted by youths both from Korea and Japan under the theme, “reflecting on the past, prospecting for the future.” The purpose of the NGO Conference is not only to seek historical reconciliation, but also to prepare for a peaceful future of East Asia, so the role of the youth is very important. At the youth forum, the participants exchanged their views and ideas freely to understand each other and grope for common historical perceptions between Korea and Japan.
The Conference ended with reports from each session and the declaration of the Conference resolution on June 22 which includes action plans for the year 2015 on the 50th anniversary of the Korea (ROK)-Japan Basic Treaty. The resolution was refined and finalized through enthusiastic discussions and debating by the committee members from the three co-organizers. Finally, the Conference resolution was declared and approved by the participants at the closing ceremony.
On June 23, Korean and overseas delegates had field researches by visiting historical sites on the way to the airport.